Guest Blogger and WWEnd Member, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd and we’ve invited him to contribute to our blog. This is the latest in Dee’s series of Philip K. Dick reviews that he started on his blog www.potatoweather.blogspot.com. We’ll be posting one every week until he runs out of reviews or gets tired of Philip K. Dick books.
Over the past year I have read I think 15 Philip K. Dick novels in more or less chronological order. I have read some good ones, some bad ones, some sloppy ones, and a couple of brilliant ones. Lies, Inc., is the first I have read the pissed me off. A certain level of incoherency comes with the PKD territory, and keeping up with what he is thinking and typing furiously onto the page is part of the fun. But this time out, he creates an irritating mess.
This novel had a chaotic publication history, and it’s problems stem from editors’ determination, early on with Dick’s approval, to make it into a book. In 1963 or 1964, PKD wrote, along with about a dozen other novels, The Unteleported Man, intended for Fantastic Stories or some other Ace Books outlet. (All this information comes from the afterward to the current edition of Lies, Inc., published by Vintage.) With the short novel already in hand, Donald Wolheim, publisher of Ace Books, received what he thought was a really cool cover painting and asked PKD to expand his novelette into book form so the cover might be used. PKD doubled the length of the novelette, but Wolheim, reportedly, was not pleased with Part Two. (If his reaction was indeed that mild, publishing, in the 1960′s, remained a “gentleman’s profession.”) Part One appeared in 1966 as part of an Ace Double. In 1979, now working with Berkeley Publishing, PKD had the idea of issuing the complete novel, although what he found of Part Two was missing around a dozen pages of text. PKD wrote a new opening, filled in most but not all of the gaps, and decided that Part Two, rather than succeeding Part One, should appear about halfway into Chapter 8 and end somewhere in Chapter 15. The book, retitled Lies, Inc., winds up in another 25 pages. It was not published until 1983, sixteen months of PKD’s death and melodramatically labeled “uncensored.”
All of the above is more interesting than anything else about the book. I will not pretend to summarize the plot, but Part Two has the main character appearing on another planet under the false identity that had been assigned to a different character. He is immediately injected with LSD, and PKD wallows in a hyperbolic description of the LSD experience for almost fifty pages. Somebody, more dedicated than myself, might dig up a copy of the short Unteleported Man and see if it makes sense. But Lies, Inc., spins so seriously out of control that I cannot even recommend it for PKD Completists. It is only for PKD Masochists.